Regret and Observation

(This is the last entry transferred from my short-lived Wix blog.  It was originally written this morning)

Wow!  I can’t believe it’s four days since the last post!  I wish I could say it’s been a busy time, but it’s more related to internet issues here in China!

Anyway, let’s get down to it…

What I wanted to talk about today is an experience I had last Thursday as I was wandering the alleyways of Kecun.  I saw a man and a young child outside one of the many hole-in-the-wall hairdressers (more literally hole-in-the-wall than many elsewhere).  What struck me was that the child and the man were in very similar positions, so I quickly crouched down and snapped a shot.  It was nothing amazing, but it wasn’t until I got home that I realised what a missed opportunity it had been.

Here’s the image:


At the time I captured the image, I hadn’t noticed that the baby was holding a pack of cigarettes and the man holding a baby’s toy.  The poetry of the image was completely lost, as I had missed an important detail and hadn’t composed the shot in a way to really bring it out in a striking way.
My first reaction was to utterly loathe myself.  How could I have been so unobservant?  How could I have screwed up like that?  What a wasted opportunity!
But then rationality set in and I realised that this was not a problem, it was an opportunity.  Rather than blaming myself for something not yet being second nature, I should take it as a way to improve.  The incident had exposed a flaw in my way of seeing and photographic execution, but now being aware of the flaw gives me the chance to take action and deal with it.
I think many of us often ask ourselves how to “get good”.  How do we take our art or expression to the next level?  How do we grow and ensure we continue to move forward and develop?  Here I had found a key answer to these questions.  It’s in getting out there and making mistakes!  Only by learning the lessons such mistakes and shortcomings bring can we truly expand ourselves and build on a surer foundation.  There’s no point learning some advanced new techniques and buying better gear when there still exists some small flaws in fundamental approaches that can easily be addressed.
Another key point that arose from this incident (and also in my decision to post this story at all) is to hold fast your confidence (sounds kinda biblical, doesn’t it?).  Every great photographer has bad days.  Every professional takes images they would never let others see, and even those considered masters may miss opportunities.  What makes the difference is how you deal with it.  You can sit around lamenting that missed opportunity, the Pulitzer Prize that got away, or you can get back out there armed with a deeper knowledge of how to do it better and make it happen.  That’s what I chose, and I hope you will too.
Next time I see a baby eating a pack of cigarettes, things will be different…